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Kroger to give away $5 million to promote U.S. vaccination effort

Minnesota offers COVID-19 vaccine incentives
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announces COVID-19 vaccine incentives 25:42

Kroger will give $1 million to five customers and free groceries for a year to another 50 to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the nation's biggest grocery chain said Thursday. The move has Kroger joining a national effort to get more Americans immunized and derail a pandemic behind the deaths of more than 593,000 Americans. 

Details of the Kroger Health campaign will come next week, and follows a collaboration with the Biden administration to push toward a target of having at least 70% of U.S. adults given their first vaccine dose by July 10, the company said. That target could be hard to reach amid hesitancy by a sizable chunk of the population.

"The faster we reach community immunity, the sooner we can all get back to enjoying backyard barbecues, live music and gathering for special occasions," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "As an employer, grocery provider, and community partner, the #CommunityImmunity giveaway is another way we are doing our part to help America recover from the public health crisis and safely return to normal."

Kroger's announcement comes three days after United Airlines said it was offering vaccinated customers a shot at winning free travel. 

To help boost slowing vaccination rates, companies and states have been devising incentives to encourage people to get immunized. Target this month began offering $5 coupons to those getting vaccinated at CVS pharmacies inside its stores nationwide, while Ohio last week reported a spike in the count of those getting vaccinated after its governor said the state would award $1 million to five vaccinated residents. Donuts and weed are among the many corporate freebies on offer to vaccinated adults.

Public health experts disagree on precisely how much of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach so-called herd immunity and halt the spread of COVID-19. Most estimates range from 70% to 85%. Half the U.S. adult population was fully vaccinated as of this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. 

Kroger operates more than 2,700 grocery stores in the U.S., with most of its sites also containing pharmacies. The Kroger Health organization's pharmacists, nurse practitioners and health care technicians have distributed more than 4.6 million COVID-19 vaccines as of Thursday, the company said.

Kroger Health will announce prizes, official rules and eligibility next week, it said. Prizes will include five $1 million giveaways for a total of $5 million and 10 free-groceries-for-a-year giveaways each week for five weeks, totaling 50 winners.

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